Diet and Exercise Myths: Don’t Be Fooled!

There are a lot of lies out there. Myths. Partial truths. Perhaps with the information overload that is out there, just plain misunderstandings. Which is why today, I wanted to address a couple thoughts on diet and fitness that fall into this category.

So, let’s put these misconceptions to rest:

Lifting weights will make me “big.” Ladies, lifting weights will not turn you into a professional wrestler. You don’t have enough testosterone. So unless you start using steroids (yes, they are illegal!), committing the bulk of your day to lifting heavy weights, and consuming nothing but protein, you’re safe. That said … a little muscle is beautiful. And it burns a whole lot more calories than fat does! So don’t fear the weight room. Strong is the new skinny.

You’ll lose weight eating salad. This one is kind of tricky, because it depends on the salad. Many restaurant salads calorically outweigh the bulk of other menu items – and it’s because of the dressing, or the cheese, or the croutons, or any other fatty extra they throw into it. But plain lettuce isn’t going to satisfy you, either. Aim for a nice balance – greens (spinach, spring greens, romaine – anything but iceberg lettuce), vegetables, lean protein (chicken, turkey) – and be aware of the serving size, fat and sugar in your dressing.

I’m sweating, so I must be working hard! I walk into a gym and I start sweating before I’ve even done anything. Sweat is the body’s cooling mechanism, and while you probably do sweat when you’re pushing yourself, it could just mean that the gym’s a little warm today (think about a hot summer day, sitting on the porch, watching television and eating ice cream – you’re not doing anything strenuous, but you are sweating). Heart rate is a much better indicator of how much energy you are expending – and an effective workout should ideally be in the 75-85% range – lower if you’re recovering, higher if you’re doing high intensity and/or interval work. Invest in a good heart rate monitor (I’ve worn a Polar for years) and you can keep tabs on just how hard you’re working from beginning to end.

I can’t (fill in the blank). Never let the mental component get in your way. “I can’t lift 20 lbs.” “I can’t run five miles straight.” “I can’t lose weight.” “I can’t give up (insert junk food of choice here.” Guess what? Yes, you can. I’ve looked at my trainers like they were crazy when they handed me a heavier weight than I’d ever touched before … and then I lifted it. I remember being in high school gym class thinking running two miles was going to kill me … and 10 years later I was running 10 miles every Sunday just because I could (heck, my friend Jenny, who was in said gym class and equally not thrilled as I was about it ended up running marathons in her 20s). You can do anything you put your mind to. It may take a few tries, but you’ll get there!

Granted, these are just a few of the crazy things that are out there. My final piece of advice: know where your information is coming from. And stay away from the “healthy cleanse” (i.e. short starvation diet) your cousin’s-sister’s-friend’s-hairdresser lost 10 lbs. on. Be smart with your body and your health!